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The challenge of cultural relativism. James Rachels. In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Exploring Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology. Oxford University Press () . What different positions have gone under the name of “cultural relativism”? What does Rachels think is the essence of the theory? Do you find the theory. James Rachels’ essay, The Challenge of Cultural Relativism, is primarily a critique of cultural relativism and, in a way; the writer has put forward.

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Cultural Relativism in Social and Political Philosophy. Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus. From an anthropologist’s point of view, the most serious flaw in Rachel’s notion that cultural relativism presents a “challenge” to philosophy is that he simply hasn’t culturxl his homework, and knows little about anthropology or its central purpose—to understand and learn about the variety of human cultures, past and present.

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James Rachels: The Challenge of Cultural Relativism

Seungbae Park – – Cultura 8 1: Johnson An undergraduate anthropology student came to me with an assigned reading in a philosophy course at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. Cultural relativism is part of our training as social tye as well as humanists—we participate and learn to understand and appreciate [End Page ] another culture, inevitably returning to our own culture to write and teach about what we have learned.

Firstly, the argument against Cultural Relativism proposes that since different values prevail in different societies there can be no objective standard.

Notify me of new comments via email. Rationality, Relativism, and Religion: Email required Address never made public. Herskovits – – New York: A need for a standard, hence, is vital. Works Cited Gardner, Martin. Cultural Relativism and Philosophy: Ethical Relativism and Universalism.

However, the tolerance that they teach different rchels is of value. For instance, the writer rightly points out that some cultures believe in heliocentricity and others may still believe in a geocentric arrangement of the universe. For instance, the covering of breasts with a scarf is part of some cultures and is not really important for other cultures.



Notify me of new posts via email. But it is not just the misunderstanding of the objectives and the ignorance of the methods of anthropology that concern me about Rachels’ essay.

What he was learning in his philosophy class challenged what he had learned about cultural relativism as a culturl concept in anthropology and he was surprised to find it culturxl negatively by a philosopher. This site uses cookies. As we can see, some cultures allow homosexuality and others strongly condemn it but many people who believe in such a theory have learned to live with it.

Eventually, the writer touched upon the most interesting and pragmatic aspect of the theory.

On The Challenge of Cultural Relativism

It is the philosophers from our culture—people like Rachels—not the philosophers of other cultures—who assume the right to pass judgment on other cultures, and decide that some universal standard [End Page ] of morality, yet to be determined, is the real goal.

Oxford University Press It would have been helpful if culturwl philosopher had presented an anthropologist’s view of cultural relativism, but fairness was not the textbook’s objective. There may be exceptions to these values and there may be variations in these exceptions relative to different societies but murder and telling a lie have always been prohibited.

There may be objective morality and the values of societies may be different from that objective morality and they may be in accordance with the objective morality. Moreover, the writer pointed out that even experience can tell us cultyral Cultural Relativism is not quite the case; he based this rachele argument on the tinges of moral objectivity that we see amidst the cultural differences in values. Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic challdnge scholarly community it serves.


In his explanation, Rachels writes about the different values that require no standard. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless. Rachels rejects cultural relativism because, in his view, cultural relativism is identical to ethical relativism, and this equation leads to an inability to criticize any society’s beliefs and practices, including our own.

Underlying his ideas is the suspicion that cultural and challenhe relativism are a threat History of Western Philosophy. Cultural Relativism; Perspectives in Cultural Pluralism.

Finally, from the anthropologist’s point of view, Rachels fails to understand that ethnocentrism governs his understanding of morality.

Tilley – – Ratio Juris 11 3: This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Rachels says nothing about the objectives of anthropology in his jamrs.

Cultural Relativism in Social and Political Philosophy categorize this paper. Interpretations of a Concept Thomas H. As a result, for Rachels, cultural relativism culgural to moral relativism. That’s part of what I told my student as we discussed Rachels’ essay. Added to PP index Total downloads 20of 2, Recent downloads 6 months 3of 2, How can I increase my downloads?

This article has no associated abstract. His essay does not pretend to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject, nor does he indicate anything but a nodding acquaintance with what anthropologists have said about the subject.

One cannot deny that Cultural Relativism, as a theory, has given us a lesson for tolerance. You are commenting using your Facebook account.